Author: Mieko Kawakami
Released: June 10th, 2021
Characters: Eyes, Kojima, Momose, Ninomiya, …
Hailed as a bold foray into new literary territory, Kawakami’s novel is told in the voice of a fourteen-year-old student subjected to relentless torment for having a lazy eye. Instead of resisting, the boy suffers in complete resignation. The only person who understands what he is going through is a female classmate who suffers similar treatment at the hands of her tormenters.
The young friends meet in secret in the hopes of avoiding any further attention and take solace in each other’s company, completely unaware that their relationship has not gone unnoticed by their bullies . . .
“No matter how we live our lives, we all die sooner or later. In which case, living is really just waiting to die. And if that’s true, why bother living at all? Why was I even alive?“– Mieko Kawakami, Heaven
When I first started reading this story, I fell in love with the writing just like how I fell in love with Breasts and Eggs back then. Kawakami’s writing style is just easy to fly through yet it is mesmerizing and has its own charm. A story I thought is going to be a coming of age book turns out to be way more than just that. This book focuses heavily on bullying. As I was reading this book, my heart was breaking for the main character and his friend, Kojima. If you’ve read The Perks of Being A Wallflower or any book that centres around bullying and you like them, you’ll definitely want to pick this up.
This book touches on other different subtopics but it is mainly on how bullying affects the victims’ life and mental health. How bullies manipulate their victims and threaten them to not tell others about what they are going through. The effects of the bullies’ words and actions on these traumatized victims is unimaginable. Kawakami helps readers to understand the impact of bullying and the conflicts and trauma the victims have to deal with. Reading this book was an intense journey and it’s definitely one of the book that will stay with me for a good while.
“Sometimes you can’t see the scars. But there’s a lot of pain, I think.”– Mieko Kawakami, Heaven
Even though lazy eye could be one of the reason why Eyes is bullied, I think the disability is not the main reason. I really like what Momose, one of the bullies (more of a bystander) said to Eyes. The act of bullying doesn’t need a reason. The bullies just need an outlet to hate, punch and bully and Eyes just happens to be there. He doesn’t fight back and they decide he becomes an easy target. The words is extremely hurtful but Momose seems to be giving Eyes a way out, to defend himself against the bullies. Because if he’s not standing up for himself, no one else is going to do it for him. That’s harsh reality in real life. Nevertheless, I’m sorry if my interpretation is insensitive, and perhaps you’d feel differently about Momose’s words when you read this book.
Kawakami also highlights on suicidal thoughts, which is caused by bullying. It is only mentioned once or twice in the book but it lingers in my mind, for sure. Other issues mentioned are broken family and social status. Quick mention, there are also couple of scenes whereby Eyes masturbates whenever he’s in stress. It doesn’t affect my reading experience or whatsoever, but I’m mentioning this knowing that not all readers are comfortable with this kind of scenes.
“People who don’t know what it’s like being poor are always like, ‘It’s okay to be poor, as long as you have love,’ but they don’t know what they’re saying.”– Mieko Kawakami, Heaven
This book also features well thought characters and they fit right where they belong in the story. One of the character that catches my attention is Kojima, Eyes’s friend who’s also a victim of bullying. She is a very complex character, the way she perceives things is not easily understood. The way her mental health is ruined because of bullying is just heart shattering. That last strike of bullying really makes her lost herself and that’s how bad things can get.
“Because we’re always in pain, we know exactly what it means to hurt somebody else.”– Mieko Kawakami, Heaven
Moving on to the pacing of the story, Kawakami does a brilliant job working on that plot and story line. The intensity builds up really nicely. The climax is just everything. Honestly, this is one of the book that you can hardly find fault in it. Simply flawless. The ending might not be the perfect one but it’s a start to something better for the main character, hence I think the book resolves quite nicely.
Overall, this book sends out a crucial message that I’d not hesitate to recommend to all readers. But of course, do pay attention to the trigger warnings and make sure you’re mentally prepared for this book.